Sliding into the Future
Today, turning recycled plastic into playground equipment is child’s play.
When you took a shower this morning, did you think about your shampoo bottle’s future? Not likely. And have you ever wondered what the neighborhood playground equipment is made of? Probably not. Surprisingly, both the bottle and the playground can be made from the same plastic. Thanks to recycling, shampoo bottles can be repurposed to create fun playgrounds for our kids to enjoy.
It’s time to change the way we think about plastic. Plastic in many forms—even that simple shampoo bottle—is a durable and valuable resource we should reuse. Because many of us grew up in communities that promoted recycling, it’s become a common term. But reusing plastic and thinking about it as a valuable resource in a circular economy is a newer concept—and an important one.
Sliding to reusable plastics
How did something like a shampoo bottle end up being used in creating your child’s favorite playground set? It started with companies looking to make more eco-friendly products by reducing their reliance on traditional materials like metals and wood. To make this a reality, companies are putting reuse and recycling into action and taking used plastic like HDPE—the plastic used to make containers such as those used for milk, shampoo, soap and detergent—and reusing it to build playgrounds.
One of the easiest materials to recycle, it’s been shown that HDPE can be recycled and further processed at least 10 times under controlled conditions. As an added plus, playground sets made from recycled plastic are more durable than those made of traditional lumber or steel. So say goodbye to rust, splitting and rotting (and splinters).
A number of companies are making or selling playground equipment from recycled plastics. For example, MaxPlayFit sells playground equipment made from reclaimed post-consumer plastic products, with each structure accounting for some 25,000 recycled plastic containers. Meanwhile, Hideout Play Company manufactures play towers made from 100% recycled HDPE. And, Little Tikes’ Go Green! Jr. Play Slide is both made from recycled plastic and it can be recycled once your children have outgrown it.
“Plastic is a reliable and durable material that can provide significant value beyond just its first use,” said Pat McNamara, founder of MaxPlayFit. “Our recycled playgrounds and equipment are a shining example of reusing valuable resources and turning them into something fun and durable that will last for years. This benefits the environment by keeping plastic waste out of landfills while giving children plenty of fun and challenging activities that help keep them active.”
It’s inspiring to see something that was once viewed only as “single use” become a new, durable product as tangible as a playground. By learning how to recycle properly according to your community’s program, you can contribute to reuse and recycle more plastics to create useful products.
Check rooms beyond the kitchen for recyclables like the bathroom, laundry room and garage—all places you’re likely to come across a plastic bottle or two that can be recycled.
Those bottles are more likely to be “clean” and already ready for recycling since they’re filled with soap or other cleaning liquids. Don’t forget to twist caps on before placing empty bottles in the recycling bin. Also, check with your local recycler or government to learn which plastics can go in the recycling bin. Or, visit berecycled.org.
From Waste to Wearables
The plastic water bottle that keeps you cool today can become a cool-looking jacket that keeps you warm for years.
Next time you hand out plastic bottles of water to cool off your kids after a soccer game, stop and think. Those plastic bottles are “single use” if you think of them only as bottles. Instead, think of all the things they could be if they weren’t thrown away after one use.
Today, plastic bottles are being recycled and converted into lots of new products, such as new bottles, or fabrics for the fashion industry. This ability to capture used plastics and turn them into raw materials to make something new helps demonstrate the concept of reuse in action.
Making a sustainable fashion statement
Global population growth has triggered an urgent need to address waste reduction, so manufacturers are finding innovative ways to make clothing by recycling materials once considered single-use products, like plastic water bottles. A number of brands are already creating jackets, textiles and other pieces of clothing from those bottles, including:
- Gap – The Upcycled Raincoat is made with a 100% recycled polyester shell, and each jacket uses approximately 33 recycled plastic bottles
- Everlane – The ReNew collection repurposes about 3 million plastic bottles to create a line of puffer jackets, fleece pullovers and durable parkas
- Patagonia – 80% of the company’s polyester fabrics are from recycled plastics, including the Down Sweater Jacket, which is made entirely from recycled polyester produced from plastic bottles
- Adidas – In its Parley collection, Adidas uses recycled plastic bottles to form the upper parts of shoes, and clothing like jackets and jerseys.
Fiber manufacturer Unifi has designed a performance fiber known as REPREVE that’s made from recycled bottles. Multiple brands, such as Ford, H&M, Nike and The North Face, use REPREVE in their products, and in the process help in the recycling of more than 20 billion plastic bottles.
“At Unifi, we are committed to helping increase recycling rates and keeping plastic bottles out of our oceans and landfills,” says Jay Herwig, Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing at Unifi Manufacturing, Inc. “Our REPREVE performance fiber demonstrates the impact of recycling. Reusing plastic bottles to create new products results in a greener, more sustainable textile that also helps to preserve our natural resources.”
Recycling plastic bottles to create a jacket is an example of reuse in action, closing the loop between what we no longer need (an empty water bottle) and a highly valued new piece of clothing.
So look for clothes and shoes made from recycled plastics. To make life even easier, REPREVE has a tracker of all the brands using its fiber, so you can quickly search for your favorites.
And of course, keep up on how to properly recycle according to your community’s program, and you’ll contribute to reuse by giving old plastics new life.
More Options Means More Pathways to Circularity
Rethinking, reusing and recycling plastics in your daily life.
JULY 16, 2020 – How many ways are there to solve the answer to a math problem? Usually more than one, right? In the same way, lots of innovative products and business models are helping us find answers to solve the problem of plastic waste. By rethinking things a bit, we can reuse and recycle plastic items, and move toward a more circular economy for plastic.
It’s up to each of us to educate ourselves and choose products that best fit our daily lifestyles, then responsibly use, reuse and recycle those products. Check out some of the companies and reusable plastic products that are making a difference:
Care for a refill? Companies like Blueland start you off with a durable, reusable spray bottle, then ship you refill pods of cleaner to mix with water in the same bottle. Other companies sell large bottles of cleaner to refill smaller spray bottles and use them again and again.
A new chapter for reusables: Using the “library subscription” model, GO Box is connecting conscious consumers, food vendors and grocery stores in Portland around a shared asset — reusable plastic containers and cups. You purchase a monthly or annual subscription, which allows you to “check out” a specific number of containers at a time from participating companies. The container could be used to pile a salad in at the grocery store or to delicately hold a taco from your favorite local food truck. After use, you must return the container to a designated drop-off site in order to be able to take another.
Rehydrate yourself. Reusable water bottles, such as those made by Nalgene, help you stay hydrated while also reducing plastic waste. In fact, Nalgene estimates that using a reusable bottle for your daily water intake keeps 1,460 single-use bottles out of landfills each year.
Greener grocer. Both reusable plastic grocery bags and plastic carryout bags from the store serve the same purpose, but they need to be reused or recycled in different ways. Reusable bags should be washed and fully dried between uses to keep them clean. (Here are some quick tips on how to wash reusable grocery bags.) Plastic carryout bags can be recycled at participating stores and other locations nationwide — just not in most home curbside recycling bins.
No matter what product or packaging you choose — reusable, multi-use or single-use — consider its sustainability and overall lifecycle impacts. How can you reuse or recycle something to extend its purpose? For example, think about reusing a plastic grocery bag to clean up after pets, as a trash-can liner, as packing material, to put inside a shoe to help maintain its shape, or as a plant protector in bad weather.
If you can’t reuse it, recycle it! It’s easier than you may think. Find recycling drop-off locations for bags and other plastic film packaging here. There are many ways to get to the same answer — try some of these ideas to reduce your plastic waste at home.
Recycling plastic bottles into textile is called down-cycling.
Recycling Shampoo bottles into playground equipment is called … well it doesn’t even have a name.
Drink and Shampoo Bottles should be recycled into. …. drinks and shampoo bottles!